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BACKGROUND: In England, Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) (now replaced by Integrated Care Systems (ICS)) and Primary Care Network (PCN) professionals support primary care prescribers to optimise antimicrobial stewardship (AMS). AIM: To explore views and experiences of CCG/PCN staff in supporting AMS, and the impact of COVID-19 on this support. DESIGN AND SETTING: Qualitative interview study in primary care in England. METHOD: Semi-structured interviews-with staff from CCG/PCNs responsible for AMS-at two time-points, via telephone interviews. These were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analysed thematically. RESULTS: Twenty-seven interviews were conducted with 14 participants (nine CCG, five PCN) in Dec 2020/Jan 2021 and Feb/Mar 2021.We found that AMS support was 1) deprioritised- to keep general practice operational and deliver COVID-19 vaccines; 2) disrupted-as social distancing made it harder to build relationships, conduct routine AMS activities, and challenge prescribing decisions; and 3) adapted-with opportunities identified for greater use of technology and from changed patient/public perceptions of viruses and self-care. We also found that resources to support AMS were valued if they were both novel, to counter AMS 'fatigue', and sufficiently familiar to fit with existing/future AMS. CONCLUSION: AMS needs to be reprioritised in general practice in the post-pandemic era and within the new ICS in England. This should include interventions/strategies that combine novel elements with already familiar strategies to refresh prescribers' motivation and opportunity for AMS. Behaviour change interventions should be aimed at improving the culture and processes for how PCN pharmacists voice concerns about AMS to prescribers in general practice and take advantage of the changed patient/public perceptions of viruses and self-care.

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Journal article



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COVID-19, antibiotics, antimicrobial stewardship, general practice, qualitative